Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen Jim Risch (R-Idaho) led thirteen of his Senate colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging the secretary to expedite nominations to Resource Advisory Committees (RACs). A vital part of the Secure Rural Schools law, RACs provide recommendations to federal land managers about where and how to spend SRS Title II funds. The majority of RACs are plagued by vacancies and do not have the membership needed to disburse funds already appropriated by Congress.
“Sixty percent of RACs nationwide currently lack a quorum and, consequently, the ability to distribute funds for projects,” the senators wrote. “This equates to approximately $55 million for Title II projects that is allocated for, but not being invested in, rural communities.” The letter goes on to encourage the secretary to use all authorities at his disposal to expedite nominations.
Compounding the problem, eligible RACs have only until September 30, 2020 to initiate projects, and funds must be obligated no later than September 30, 2021. Title II funds may be spent on federal land for projects such as trail maintenance or repair, noxious weed abatement, watershed restoration, soil productivity improvement, or a variety of other purposes.
Other signers of the letter included Senators Crapo, Wyden, Gardner, Merkley, McSally, Bennet, Graham, Tim Scott, Daines, Murkowski, Romney, Hawley and Lee.
Background: SRS payments provide a critical income stream to rural communities throughout Idaho and the West. Earlier this year, Sens. Risch, Crapo, Wyden, and Merkley introduced the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act to create a permanent endowment to provide rural counties with a stable, reliable income stream to fund county services.
To read the full letter, click here.